My experience in my chosen MOOC has revealed how significant the role of non-human actors can be. Rather than the course infrastructure being a tool to support me at my command, it seems to obstruct dialogue. The instructor includes regular activities which involve posting to a particular forum (there are 290 threads for week 1 alone) and commenting on at least two other participants. The instructions end:
Engage and discuss with other learners below!
At the top of the thread there’s a button to ‘view my response’ – but it doesn’t work. The only way to find your previous post to see if anyone has responded to it is to recall how many days ago you commented, and then trawl through at least 3 pages of posts from the same day to find your own post. Similarly, in the general forum section outside the weekly blocks, there is a search field – only, it does not return results for what I have posted.
There is a lot of activity in the forums; people are clearly making their two comments on peers’ posts as required. Perhaps they are driven by desire for the small completion tick, which only appears by the activity once one has both posted and commented on others. Comments are, largely, thoughtful. Many are not particularly critical, but they frequently refer to the original post, ask questions, or add relevant content to the post. However, I am yet to see a single instance of an original poster replying to someone who has commented on her post.
It is incredibly frustrating: our participation is regulated, demanded even, through completion only being recognised after posting. We are told to ‘engage’. Yet, the only real navigation is forward and backwards between reams of comments. The technology closes down the opportunity for any kind of real engagement with other learners.
What could the motivation for this be? The illusion of constructivist learning?
The obituary? Forthcoming;)